How insufficient representation sparked a new outlet for Pasadena’s African-American community
By Emily Glory Peters
“It started when Councilwoman Jacque Robinson lost the mayoral election in 2015,” says Dennis Haywood, founder and editor-in-chief for online publication Pasadena Black Pages (PBP). It was the first time the seat had been open in 16 years, and was ultimately won with a 55.5 percent edge by current Pasadena mayor Terry Tornek.
“I had been trying to work with the Pasadena Journal (a local African-American owned/operated paper), but they never published any of the articles I wrote. I just felt like northwest Pasadena didn’t show up for her [Robinson], and that was partly because of a lack of awareness,” says Haywood.
It was the flint that sparked a new media outlet fire. Launched in 2015 alongside Vice President Rochele Jones and head of marketing Teanna Ross, Pasadena Black Pages was created to be a voice for Pasadena and Altadena’s black community and to empower those within it.
“Dennis’s vision recognized that there were people who didn’t have a resource or feel comfortable asking questions,” explains Ross, noting that where some readers may be intimidated to comment on or even contact other news outlets, Pasadena Black Pages actually depends upon their input.
“The African-American community has a rich history in Pasadena and we don’t want it to die. For so long our community was silent because they thought there may be repercussions behind speaking up—but now they can use our platform,” says Ross. “We make a point to go out in the community; sit in meetings, hear their perspectives. People know us and have our personal emails and mobile numbers. That’s why our tagline is your voice, our platform—because we share not only our own opinions but those of our readers.”
Today, the site has a growing readership and thousands more following on social media. While they regularly incorporate content submitted by readers, Haywood and his team also use video interviews with local citizens as a key differentiator.
“You don’t have to be a politician to be interviewed. You could be a fourth grade teacher and we’ll spotlight you because we want people to know about those in the community,” he says. “You might not think what you do is special, but someone else might see what you do and become inspired to follow in your footsteps.”
This spirit of community also fuels Pasadena Black Pages volunteer work, like their partnership with Macy’s, AT&T Pioneers and Becca’s Closet to get donated prom dresses into the hands of hundreds of local high schoolers—an event coming up in April. Ross sees this outreach as a pipeline to more extensive community services in the future, but for now, PBP is all about making immediate progress for both black representation in the media and for Pasadena itself.
“We do have a perspective—but just because we’re pro-something doesn’t mean we’re anti-everything else,” reminds Ross. “In the media it’s critical for all people to be represented. It briangs forth more dialogue and allows us to better understand each other’s needs, come together and find solutions instead of division.”